Sunday Salon: Armchair Escape

I can’t help chuckling at the theme for this issue of Modern Creative Life – ESCAPE. It’s particularly ironic for me at this moment because six weeks ago we brought home a tiny puppy, so we’re spending most of our time tethered to the house or the puppy’s needs. When we do “escape” it’s to make a quick run out for a meal, or groceries, or more chew toys, or to the veterinarian’s office.

And while I absolutely adore this little critter, there are times when I do long for a real escape – somewhere the sights and sounds consist of other than squeak toys, kibble dispensers, puppy pads, and all the assorted accoutrement puppies now seem to require.

Here is just where art and life intersect in a marvelous way. In the past few weeks I’ve traveled to India and South America, to Spain and France, and even back in time to the 1930’s and 1940’s. All while ensconced in my favorite chair, a bundle of fur curled up beside me snoring softly.

If you’re a reader you understand what I mean. Books have always been my preferred means of escape. In reality, I’m not much of a traveler anyway. I always prefer home over foreign locales. For many years, I wasn’t inclined to admit that, because it seems most people count traveling as a huge life goal and have exotic locations lined up on their bucket lists. Alas, I’m happy spending the majority of my time in my own home, especially as I get older and admittedly more persnickety about my personal spaces. Whenever I do travel, I’m usually disappointed. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in Self Reliance: Traveling is a fool’s paradise…I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the same sad self, unrelenting, identical that I fled from.”

Yep, there’s just no escaping that “same sad self.”

So books – and also music and movies and artwork – take me most anywhere I want to go these days. Add in some rich coffee grown in the Andes mountains and a buttery Parisian style croissant, a cold crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand with some cheese from the coast of England, and the armchair international experience is complete.

Maybe a few months from now when the puppy is grown up and settled I’ll decide to take a real trip instead of a virtual one. I’ll hire a pet sitter, pack my trunk, wave farewell to my friends, board a plane, and take off into the friendly skies toward unknown and interesting destinations.

Then again, maybe I’ll just settle back in my armchair with a pile of good books. Think of all the money I’ll save to buy chew toys and dog treats.

How about you? Are you an armchair traveler or an explorer for real?

Here’s a list of books I’ve “traveled” with in the past few weeks:

A Place for Us – Fatima Farheen Mirza

The Masterpiece – Fiona Davis

Another Side of Paradise – Sally Koslow

The Story Hour – Thrity Umrigar

Moonlight Over Paris – Jennifer Robson

Women in Sunlight -Frances Mayes


About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband and their Shih Tzu puppy Lacey Li. She is the author of Life in General, and Life Goes On, collections of personal and inspirational essays about the ways women navigate the passage into midlife. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. If she’s not writing or playing music you’ll likely find her either playing with (or cleaning up after) the puppy, or curled up on the couch reading with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) close at hand. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Latest Escape by Patricia Welllingham-Jones


A friend is slogging her way home
from Buenos Aires, thirteen air hours
topping off an arduous trip:
flights around Chile and Argentina,
bus rides along sharp Andean ridges,
four days on a boat in rough Patagonian seas.

That doesn’t take into account
the mountain-miles hiked
with aching joints
where her real knees used to be.

So now she’s heading for Atlanta,
hoping their record snow has stopped,
the power’s back on. Wishing
she didn’t have a seven-hour layover.
Wishing she was a long-flying bird.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Creating Small Opportunities for Escape is Good for the Soul! by Laura Pursley

Creating an escape for yourself doesn’t have to entail some grand plan, some grand vacation, or be a huge undertaking.

When you can’t actually get away on a vacation, doing little things to evoke the feeling of escape, peace, or calm is the next best thing. With so many responsibilities, like being a Mom of two young kids, having a full-time job, running a décor blog and all the things that come along with those, I know that I am not alone in that getting even a moment to yourself is a blessing. Whatever keeps you busy in your life, whatever your responsibilities, taking time to relax, or to be still, or to be calm should have some place in your life.

Sometimes, if I am being totally honest, even being in the bathroom by myself can seem like a blessing, but that doesn’t really count as an escape.

I recently did a self-imposed organizing challenge where I committed to organizing 5 spaces in 5 days. While it was a lot of work, the feeling of calm that it evoked for me after was so great! Because we are all so busy, we let things pile up, and sometimes don’t even realize how bad it has gotten. In my case, when it was a struggle to close the drawer in my bathroom because of all the stuff, this was a sure sign that it was time to take action.

Now, when I go into these organized spaces every day in my home (master bedroom closet, bathroom drawers and cabinets, my kids bathroom linen closet), I truly have a feeling of calm because the clutter is gone, everything is organized, and I can find what I need for my daily tasks. Now, if I could only get my kids to keep the playroom organized!

Here are a few pics of some of the spaces that I organized. I won’t bother you with the messy before pics!

A side organizing tip: If you don’t use baskets to organize the smaller things, you are missing out!

Another small, yet impactful thing that I do every day to make me feel at peace, or calm, is to make my bed. For some reason, having my bed made puts me at ease. If the bed is unmade, (kind of like living with the clutter), I feel a little disheveled.

One thing that I tell people is to find small things that you enjoy that give you peace, or the feeling of an escape, even if it’s for a short time. One thing that I like to do on a Sunday morning is to make a cup of coffee, sit on the front porch, and read a magazine. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it feels so luxurious.

I am sure that you can think of a few things that give you peace, make you calm, or create an escape in your home. It may be organization, it may be a cozy spot to curl up and read a book, or it may even be hiding in a room if that’s necessary. Finding a way to do some of these things are good for the soul, and good for your sanity!

About the Author: Laura Pursley

Laura is a home decor blogger, marketing professional, mother of 2, living in Michigan. Laura has a passion for design that she uses to transform her home into a comfortable, livable, beautiful space for her family. Her design motto is that you don’t have to be a designer to have good design in your home. She believes that everyone deserves to be in a space that they love, whatever that means to you.

Laura likes to mix a little bit of modern with a little bit of farmhouse, and she likes textures, patterns, and in some instances, is not afraid of color. It is her hope with her design blog to inspire others to transform their own spaces into something they love.

Visit her blog at to get inspired, or follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest

Edge of Dusk by Bobbi Sinha-Morey


By the edge of dusk I’d
escaped just in time
through the broken slats
of a fence, into an orchard
where I stole enough plums,
kept running farther away
till I could no longer see
the farm my stepfather owned
and my insane family who did
nothing but abuse me. All I
ever wanted was a peaceful
sanctuary, a loving touch to
waken my senses, a nurturing
light so I could find my passion
in the sun. Too wary to put my
thumb in the air when I reached
the open road, I walked for three
miles before I arrived at a bus
depot, and I counted my change
for an overnight ride out of here.
And when I slept I dreamed of
my future—barefoot in the wet
grass in back of my one bedroom
home, peaches ripe on the vine,
the stillness and quiet of an idyllic
life. New faces, new memories;
pancake breakfasts every Sunday.
And, maybe, if I lost my ponytail
and let down my hair, a man would
come into my life, wrap his arms
about me forever.

About the Author: Bobbi Sinha-Morey

Bobbi Sinha-Morey’s poetry can be see in a variety of places such as Plainsongs, Pirene’s Fountain, The Wayfarer, Red Weather, Oasis Journal 2016, Helix Magazine, and Uppagus. Her books of poetry are available at, and her work has been nominated for Best of the Net. She loves taking walks on the beach with her husband.

A Summer Escape by Jeanie Croope

It’s a quiet Monday morning at the cottage. The lake is draped with a haze of fog, the opposite shoreline barely visible, like a pencil drawing that had been badly erased and only a light shadow remains. The lake is still and gray, barely a ripple. Islands of foam rest without moving on its surface, like globs of whipped cream floating in a sink of dirty water.

The monochromatic palette is broken only by the brilliantly colored water floats tied to the neighbor’s dock. A bright pink flamingo, a yellow trampoline, a goldenrod inner tube, a floating island with a green palm tree protruding from the top. Their cheerful colors signal the lively activity of the day ahead.

The weekenders have returned home to their regular routine of work, appointments and obligations and it is quiet, oh so quiet. Only the well modulated voices of dulcet radio anchors on “Morning Edition” and the sound of the neighbor’s lawn sprinklers break the stillness.

Why, oh why, do people have lawns at the lake? This is where we come to escape the routines of the city and the suburbs. Mowing lawns. Street traffic. A faster pace.

On our morning walks we might encounter Mr. Bird and his dog, Snoopy; Karen and Lou, with their dazzling garden; Penny and John, who are laying in their own driveway; Steve, who is married to the Little Free Library lady; Paul, the painter, who has a smoker and who, if we are lucky, may offer a taste of delicious smoked meat; Josh and his dad, with Josh’s kids packed into a double-stroller and their blond German shepherd by their side.

We greet each other with a smile, maybe a bit of chat, swatting away a mosquito or two if the day is damp or humid. We note the flower pots with black eyed Susans in an otherwise neat little garden, tipped over the day before in the breeze, are now planted, straight and tall.

The occasional red-tipped leaf is a sign of days to come.

Our minds relax.

The solo walker will perhaps dream up plots for stories that may or may not be written or notice the way light hits a cluster of leaves, trying to determine how to capture that light in paint. Those traveling in the company of others will notice all about them as well, pointing out bunnies or birds, or simply share a morning conversation.

A car may go by, carrying its driver into town, perhaps for a day job, perhaps for groceries or a trip to a breakfast restaurant. They slow as they approach, giving the walkers plenty of room and all parties wave as they pass by. It’s part of the unwritten etiquette code.

And yes, there are different types of waves.

The open-handed royal wave, the windshield wiper wave and the wiggling finger wave. The two-handed steering wheel wave finds the driver wiggling the fingers on both hands as it holds the steering wheel at “ten” and “two,” the official drivers education position.

There is the open window arm-out wave and it’s not so pleasant cousin, the cigarette-out-the-open-window wave, leaving behind an after-fragrance of dubious quality.

Back on the porch, the radio has moved from news to classical. The black-and-white cat sits on the cushion of a faux-wicker chair, alternating naps with a careful perusal of the beach as she awaits the passage of a bird or chipmunk.

Yesterday’s swimsuits and towels hang from nails on the porch beams, drying out for today’s swim. A potted sunflower sits on the table, herb gardens and small begonia pots seem to thrive.

The lake is still clam, the white foam seemingly barely moving in the almost-non-existent current.

A long boat passes by and the fog, if one looks straight out, is moving gently to the north, like slow-moving smoke. Yes, it’s still there, that fog, but lifting now, the trees on the opposite side more visible than a half hour before.

In another hour the sun will break through the clouds and bring with it the warmth of another summer’s day.

There will be the sounds of more boats, a barking dog, perhaps the laughter of children or adults, enjoying the water.

A lone swimmer will stroke in the deep water along the shoreline, from one buoy to another, counting strokes and attempting to do more than the day before. And more than one fisherman will slowly move their boats boat down the lake, hoping for “the big one” and more likely later telling stories of the one that got away.

And, in due course, the sun will sink slowly beyond the horizon, leaving streaks of orange, pink and gold on the surface of the lake.

The sky will move to inky blue, then black and stars will emerge, perhaps the moon. The lake will again be calm, the stillness after a day of play will set in as it does for us. Time for rest.

There will be tomorrow in our little heaven on earth. And we will treasure it as much as today.

About the Author: Jeanie Croope

Jeanie Croope bioAfter a long career in public broadcasting, Jeanie Croope is now doing all the things she loves — art, photography, writing, cooking, reading wonderful books and discovering a multitude of new creative passions. You can find her blogging about life and all the things she loves at The Marmelade Gypsy.

Sunday Sanctuary: Noticing the Details and Making a Life

I’ve come to believe that in order to live the kind of life we desire, we must choose to create it. It’s a concept that sounds good on paper, yet making it happen can be harder. We humans tend to look at things from a lens of the big picture concept side and though they say that the devil is in the details, we rush past the smallest of details. We look for big signs that we are succeeding and hope that huge leaps will result fast and life changing results.

The truth is that if we want our creative lives to be sustainable, we need to learn to subsist on tiny sips of inspiration and see the infinitesimal moments of beauty and perfection as our building blocks.

What will save us, therefore, isn’t grand gestures or sweeping changes, but the small moments. A perfect cup of coffee, a ten-day old bouquet of grocery store flowers, the way the flame on a candle flickers as it reaches the end of the wick.

Yesterday, we lost electricity for several hours. My plan for the Saturday was to write and edit. And I needed to be doing that in WordPress. Without electricity or internet, I was at a loss as to what to do now that my plan had been changed.

Rather than worry about finishing this column. Or editing a blog post for work. I moved back into the bedroom and got a change of perspective. This past summer, John’s mother sold her house and some of her furniture came back to Ohio to live with us.

A part of that furniture is a peach colored wing back chair nestled into a corner by the windows. On John’s side of the bed. I never sit their, and honestly wasn’t thrilled about the addition of that chair. And a side table. And a lamp.

It’s been growing on me, though. And for the first time since it’s been in our bedroom, the loss of electricity led me to sit there. With what little natural light was available on a rainy day, I found comfort there. Nestled in a chair that had held dozens of O’Connors over the last twenty-five years.

Rather than fret about this column. Or those blog posts I meant to finish editing today. I wrote a letter. I wrote in my journal. I sat and listened to the sound of the rain pelting against the windows.

To feed my creative life, I need to allow myself to experience these kinds of moment.

One day last week, I walked outside to place a Netflix video in the mailbox. My phone was in my pocket and a cup of coffee in my hand. I paused to watch the changing sky as the rising sun colored my view with tinges of pink and shots of gold against midnight blue sky. Then I gazed to my left to see the shimmer of raindrops shimmered against the deep green leaves of my roses. And the way the drops on a spider web made it glimmer

Such stark beauty was all around me, and if I had hurried just a little, I would have missed it.

We tend to believe that when we talk about “making”, it must be something done with from a high art perspective: writing, drawing, making music, etc.

Yet, my core truth is that we are always making. Each moment of living is a choice in creative living. We just have to notice them.

It’s watching John load the car in the mornings: first he walks to the back of his bright red car. He waves his foot under the trunk, the car beeps, and the lid begins to rise. He places his lunch box and briefcase in his trunk. And then drapes his suit jacket across his briefcase so it doesn’t wrinkle. After closing the trunk, he opens the driver’s door, leans in and puts his coffee cup in the holder.

Only then does he climb into the car, push the button to start the engine, and buckles his seat belt.

Sometimes I can hear his morning radio choices: The Beatles or Pop Rocks on SiriusFM. He hits the hazard lights, waves one more time, and backs out of the garage.

If I am going to continue to stay devoted to living a creative life. And allowing it to inform and nourish my life. Then, I must continue to notice those infinitesimal moments that add a layer of richness to my world.

Like noticing the ways raw sugar plinks as it hits the coffee in my cup.  And then watch the bloom of dairy goodness as I splash in some cream. And that first sip, how the bitterness of the coffee is tempered with the richness of the cream and the sweetness of the sprinkled in sugar.

It’s sharing a joke with the butcher as he packages up a pork loin. And then some ground chicken.. And noticing how he comes alive and smiles a little deeper. Grateful to be seen and acknowledged.

It’s the quick kiss I get as John walks in the door and the scent of him against hours old starched shirt, faded Old Spice, and the workday.

It’s gazing in the mirror and seeing my own inner light as I fasten a necklace. It’s the shift in light as the day is swallowed up by night.

No matter how busy we get, there must be moments of coming back to center. To notice our own life. To see the tiny moments that create my own existence. And the life of those I love. To honor the way creative living plays into my everyday life.

For this is what the core of making is to me: making a life.

About the Author: Debra Smouse

debra_Smouse_mclDebra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach, and author of Clearing Brain Clutter: Discovering Your Heart’s Desire and Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision. When she’s not vacuuming her couch, you’ll find her reading or plotting when she can play her next round of golf. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Sunday Brunch: A Stout-hearted Man

Give me some men who are stout-hearted men,
Who will fight, for the right they adore,
Start me with ten who are stout-hearted men,
And I’ll soon give you ten thousand more.
Shoulder to shoulder and bolder and bolder,
They grow as they go to the fore.
Then there’s nothing in the world can halt or mar a plan,
When stout-hearted men can stick together man to man.

There are people who enter your lives as visitors, stay a while, and then move on, and there are others who come to stay.

For most of the first twelve years of my life, my immediate family was just my mother and me. Sure, she was married for some of that time, but it wasn’t a happy or healthy relationship, and a lot of our time was spent in a mother-daughter bubble that must have seemed impenetrable from outside.

And then there was Ira.

Ira Decades have erased the clear memories of my first time meeting him, but I think it was largely unplanned. My mother had met him some weeks before at a singles dinner, maybe through the UU church, maybe through Parents Without Partners, but that night – that night – he called asking if Mom wanted to join him to see the famous mime Marcel Marceau. He was bringing his son, and I was invited as well.

I only have vague recollections of the performance. A pity, really, because Marceau was brilliant at what he did. What I remember is that I was bored a lot – a lot of the performance was a bit esoteric for a grumpy, recently eleven-year-old girl. The son had fallen asleep mid-way through the performance, and I had no one to talk to. I was also hungry. I think at some point a bagel manifested, but, for the most part, it was a seriously unimpressive evening that was capped off when we were pulled over by the police on the way home. Ira wasn’t drunk. He’d weaving because he couldn’t stay awake.

Did I mention: this was their first date?

I expected my mother to blow him off.

I expected her to date other people.

I never expected her to marry him, but that’s what happened.

She would tell you, if you asked her, that it was the most unromantic proposal in the history of such things. There was laundry involved. There was no exchange of jewelry. It was almost an afterthought.

I boycotted the wedding.

I was eleven, and it was an act of rebellion. I felt unincluded and unimportant. I’m not sure what I thought would result from my action, but I knew I had to make a statement.

I made a lot of statements in the early days of their marriage. What I didn’t have the self-awareness or vocabulary to express then was that I felt betrayed – my mother, who had kept her birth name for all the years of my life so far – took his name when they married. I felt like I’d been brushed aside. I felt like I was the only one making compromises.

At the same time, I wasn’t ready to trust that this person, this man, would treat my mother well, would treat me well, would stay in our lives.

There was a lot of adjustment.

Ira wasn’t used to people who yelled, or worse, yelled back at him. I wasn’t willing to accept him as a parent. There were times I begged to go live with my aunt, or my grandparents, or be sent to boarding school.

There were times when I’m sure Ira wanted to walk away from the prickly little girl who was caught in the worst part of the transition from childhood to womanhood.

But gradually, things changed.

Every once in a while, Ira would buy a present – nothing big – an album, a book, a set of awesome colored markers – just for me. And every once in a while, I’d engage him in conversation.

By the time I got to high school, we had begun to form a solid friendship, partly out of convenience. I liked to spend weekend nights reading into the wee hours of the morning, and he liked to spend the same late nights doing recreational math. Once, he knocked on my bedroom door and said, “It’s two AM, shouldn’t you be sleeping?”

My response was to ask, “Shouldn’t you?

Eventually, those late-night encounters turned into something else. He’d knock on my door and say, “Melissa, I have to tell you about this new thing I learned about the number eleven!”

Or I’d knock on his office door and say, “I’m in between books and I’m making some tea. Do you want some?” IRA-02

Over the years, those midnight cups of tea turned into midnight chats about time travel and history and why mild cheddar should be eradicated from the face of the earth, and how Jeremy Brett was the best Sherlock Holmes ever.

At some point we started a tradition of going to museums together – just the two of us – on Father’s Day. We’d go to breakfast first or lunch after, and we’d get ice cream cones and not tell Mom. We went to the California Academy of Sciences and speculated about spending the night in the African Watering Hole exhibit, and we went to the Rosicrucian Museum and saw the mummy in the replica tomb.

And in all that time, Ira never pushed me to hug him if I didn’t want to. He never pushed me to call him “Dad.” He laughed at my snark and helped with my math homework, and I mocked his love of cheap kitchen gadgets bought from the discount store, and his penchant for weird food combinations (peanut butter and jelly and CHEESE?) but there was real affection underneath it all.

From the time Ira entered our lives, birthday and Christmas gifts were presented from him and my mother as a unit, with a few notable exceptions. When I turned twenty-one, my mother gave me the then-current edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves, and that was just from her. And one year, after one of our museum trips, Ira gave me a pin – a brooch – that had all the animals from the safari exhibit attached as charms. He said it reminded him of our trip to the museum, and he thought I’d like it.

I did. I still do.

Later, when I was planning my wedding to Fuzzy, Ira said that he’d give me away, and be honored to do it, if I asked him to, but that I should consider that it was a tradition that dated back to when women were chattel, and was that something any of us believed in?

Fuzzy and I eventually eloped, and my parents threw us a party with a commitment ceremony several months later, and  even though I was already technically married, I caught Ira crying when Fuzzy put the wedding band on my finger.

But through all of that, I still bristled whenever someone assumed he was my father, and I would correct them, adding the word STEP.

It should be noted that the events described from here to the end of this piece may not match the timeline of reality. I was pretty drugged on Norco for the first two or three weeks…

On July 11th  of this year, mere hours after I came home from having the ACL, ALL, and meniscus in my left knee reconstructed, my mother told me that Ira had an infected gall bladder and they were considering surgery, but because of advanced kidney disease, his odds weren’t good.

He’d been sick for a while, with different diagnoses. It was cancer. Then it wasn’t. Then it was, again – multiple myeloma. He’d been vacillating about his kidney disease – it was a sudden diagnosis and he didn’t want treatment until he was told how much time he didn’t have left.

Ultimately, he had the surgery a few days later when the risk of his gall bladder bursting was too great to ignore. There were complications. There was a second surgery. Exhausted and diminished he asked for treatment to end.

And so, we waited.

I waited here in Texas, because I couldn’t go to the bathroom without help, let alone travel to Mexico, where my parents retired almost twenty years ago. I waited wracked with guilt over not being able to be there to support my mother, and to say goodbye. Ira’s son was with her. And there was a near-constant flow of texts and calls. But it’s not the same as being there.

So, I asked if I could write a letter – an email – and have my mother read it to him.

Ira used to sing this song, one he obviously learned in school. “Stout-hearted Men.” When he was singing it, you could see the ghost of his eight-year-old self overlaying his present-day self. And I mentioned that in my letter, adding that for years I thought it was the only song he knew.

I also explained why I was so stubborn about the term ‘stepfather.”

Anyone can be a father, I said, because that’s an act of biology. But stepfathers – good stepfathers – they choose it. They choose to deal with the adjustments, and the fighting and then prickly little girls who don’t know how to trust men.

Every day, over and over, they choose to stay.

Ira chose to stay.

And then he chose to leave.


Ira died on July 27th.  Just over a month ago. He was my mother’s partner and lover and best friend and husband. He was a good father to his son, and he bent over backwards to be a good stepfather to me.

He was a scientist and a scholar, but he’d happily watch hours and hours of stupid action movies just to see the explosions.

He was sometimes silly and sometimes serious. He’d insist that raw veggies and leafy greens had to be part of every meal, but then he’d meet you in the kitchen in the middle of the night to sneak a piece of pie.

He coddled his dogs, made napping into an Olympic-level event, and gave generally useful advice.

He was in the army once, when he was young, though he never saw combat.

And he was the epitome of a modern, enlightened (mostly), loving, stout-hearted man.

You who have dreams, if you act they will come true.
To turn your dreams to a fact, it’s up to you.
If you have the soul and the spirit,
Never fear it, you’ll see it thru,
Hearts can inspire, other hearts with their fire,
For the strong obey when a strong man shows them the way.

The song, “Stout-hearted Men” was written for the musical New Moon
by Sigmund Romberg, Frank Mandel, Laurence Schwab & Oscar Hammerstein II.

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, listen to her podcast, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Sunday Salon: The Time for Art


“In these relentlessly dark and riven times, I find myself beset by a near ravenous hunger for beauty.” ~Claire Messud

It happens when I hear the extraordinarily poignant melody of a Chopin Nocturne, when I gaze on the placid hues of a Monet watercolor, when I read the lines of a Mary Oliver poem. For those moments in time, my soul expands, my spirit quietens, my heart calms its racing, and I feel reassured.

In our modern world it’s so easy to discount the importance of Art. There are such huge divisions among people, there is massive weaponry being tested and touted, there are innocent children being killed in school and separated from their families by virtue of nationality alone. We are taking sides against one another, brother against brother, mother against daughter, husband against wife. There is so much work to be done, even to begin the long process of bending history toward justice, as Martin Luther King promises us will occur.

What use is a song, a painting, a poem in the face of so much outrage? Who feels like dancing or singing anyway? Isn’t it just easier to go to work, do your job, come home and settle on the couch watching TV news or scrolling your Twitter feed for the latest outrage? Or try and escape from it all by numbing yourself with food or alcohol or other destructive behaviors?

We have been trained to believe that if something isn’t immediately useful and purposeful, its benefits cannot be measured, evaluated, calculated, and monetized, then it’s not worthy. It’s dispensable. We can get along without it. But if we accept this, I fear we risk losing sight of what makes us human.

I believe the quality of life is not measured by material goods or celebrity or social media status. It is a rich and sensitive mind, a giving heart, and meaningful human relationships that feed our souls and lead to the truest fulfillment we’ll find in this lifetime.  Art is a bridge between the chaos of the modern world and the spiritual refreshment we so desperately need.

As difficult as it may be to scientifically analyze the benefits of art on a personal or societal level, there is no doubt in my mind that Art has the power to heal, to reframe thinking and to encourage justice. We learn compassion for others when their circumstances come alive in stories. We see the beauty of nature in paintings on canvas. We hear emotion come to life through music. We marvel at the fortitude these artists demonstrated, making art in the face of terrible trouble. Art lifts us up to possibility, to the creation of beauty within our own spheres. It encourages quiet and thoughtfulness. It makes us take stock and think.

Because truthfully, every nation at some time in its history has faced a reckoning similar to the one we’re facing now. Where will we stand – on the side of truth and honor and service? Or on the other side.

And what will we do with our anxious minds and spirits while we make that decision? We will illuminate and observe and perform. Our soul cries out for it, our hearts ache for it.

Novelist Claire Messud writes: “Art has the power to alter our interior selves, and in so doing to inspire, exhilarate, provoke, connect, and rouse us. As we are changed, our souls are awakened to possibility – immeasurable, yes, and potentially infinite.”

So go and make some Art. Create it or soak it up in silence. Lift your voice in song, spin your body in a dance. Awaken your soul to possibility, immeasurable and infinite.

You will be changed. And so will the world.


About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband and their Shih Tzu puppy Lacey Li. She is the author of Life in General, and Life Goes On, collections of personal and inspirational essays about the ways women navigate the passage into midlife. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. If she’s not writing or playing music you’ll likely find her playing with the puppy or curled up on the couch reading with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) close at hand. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

The Aurorean Morning Mist by Bobbi Sinha-Morey

I never dreamed I’d see
the parasol lady again who
would only appear in the
aurorean morning mist to
take me away from my
stressful reality, from the
emotional burdens of my life.
This time, a wrap about my
shoulders, I went after her,
eager to escape the pallor of
my unwanted life; and, in
the orphic wind, she led me
to a world I never thought
I’d be in. An elegant two story
house, a wide patio set up for
a party decked out with fine
china and white tablecloths,
long stem glasses with honey
apple wine. Paper lanterns
with candles to illumine the
walkway inside each one of
them. And a little girl in a blue
dress seemed to fill the lilac
shadow with her own light
wherein she quietly played.
The splendor, the simple
beauty reminded me of my
favorite story by Virginia
Woolf, the coming summer
night like a perfection of
thought. This house, these
gardens, for me to wander
in as I please. A breakfast
kept for me until I choose
to arise, with puff pastry as
a daily repast, stitching
booklets of verse that fit so
petitely in the palm of your
hand. A new family I can
cling to; their gaiety, their
genuine smiles that just stick.
I’ll never go back to what I
used to be.

About the Author: Bobbi Sinha-Morey

Bobbi Sinha-Morey’s poetry can be see in a variety of places such as Plainsongs, Pirene’s Fountain, The Wayfarer, Red Weather, Oasis Journal 2016, Helix Magazine, and Uppagus. Her books of poetry are available at, and her work has been nominated for Best of the Net. She loves taking walks on the beach with her husband.

Sunday Sensations: Electricity and Light Combine

Slipping fingers trace each slick page. This happens so rarely these days. Paper, colors, ink, form and function mix into one solid mass. Light and electricity combined these atoms and, as a result, I’m holding these photos of you.

Printing seems obsolete. Even grandmas pull out their phones to show you pictures of their grandchildren. Brightness, smoothness, simulated on the screen.

And yet, there’s something about holding this after-image of you that invokes so much more than scrolling through my phone. Printing photos isn’t obsolete, it’s absolute.

You were here.
You were real.
You now aren’t.

It doesn’t contain your laugh or your smell, but the photo invokes both in my memory. Glossy, fragile, frozen you stand there. How does a small rectangle have the power to both pierce and heal me?

There are books of these photos in a box in my parent’s storage. Frozen snippets of my childhood awaiting reclamation. There are notebooks full of silver nitrate from my grandmother’s journies. Hand-scrawled names and places that are foreign to me. There are shoeboxes full of missing tooth grins, proud smiles, and “firsts” in our closet.

Each page is imbued with laughter, sorrow, pain, and joy.

There’s echoes of the ones who have moved on to their permanent location. There’s sighs that stir forgotten memories. There’s love.

My fingertips trace the only piece of you I have left. Tears form despite my best efforts. I slip into a moment where the world is only me and my loss. Just for a moment, I let myself feel the missing you feeling that hangs in the back of my mind.

I put the photo in a place of prominence. Here I raise my Ebenezer, grateful for the help that gets me through. The help you left behind. The help that is your love.

I think it’s time to print some more photos.

About the author: Tabitha Grace Challis

Tabitha Grace ChallisTabitha is a social media strategist, writer, blogger, and professional geek. Among her published works are the children’s books Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and Machu the Cat is Very Hungry, both published under the name Tabitha Grace Smith. A California girl (always and forever) she now lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and a collection of cats, dogs, and chickens. Find out more about her on her Amazon author page or follow her on Twitter: @Tabz.